A HUMAN SHARK?
"Let's think about this together," Yankele said. We were sitting on the rocks behind The Dolphin, smoking cigarettes. "Could this spearhead kill a man underwater?"
"At the end of a spear fired from a powerful speargun, say double rubber bands or better still compressed air, yes, if it hit him in a vital spot. The effect would be like an arrow shot from a good bow, which is considered equivalent to a pistol up to the range of fifty metres or so. But at the end of a tube with a rubber wrist band, rather not, unless it was driven in by force. In either case it would be difficult to remove because of the barbs, and would leave a telling wound. They've found nothing of the sort at the autopsy."
"The death certificate says that both wounds were inflicted by a shark, that there were no other marks on the body, and that Werner Bauer died of loss of blood caused by the attack. Now, can you think of any way, however unlikely or fantastic, in which Max could have provoked a shark attack on Werner? Suppose that eel really did grab Werner's hand but it was Max and not Werner who started cutting the its head off?"
"Er ... not unless he was prepared to be attacked himself while doing it, perhaps leaving Werner the survivor."
"Risking, as they say, his life for the cause. "
"What cause would you say?"
"Oh, there's a whole bunch of causes to choose from , from Red Brigades to Palestine Liberation. There are even some anarchists left. You know, most people think that the cause comes first and terrorism afterwards. It's not always like that. Sometimes people are born the terrorist type, frustrated, inferior, and thirsty for violence, and they pick up a cause more or less as an excuse, to get the money, the materials, and the publicity."
"I would like to know what happened to that spearhead."
"If you do find out, or anything even remotely related to the case, please call me at once. I'll be at the army base near Sharm for the next few days, and if it's urgent you can use your radio; you know the base's code, don't you?"
"In the meantime, Cobi, it would be best for everyone to think it was an accident, and for whoever knows it was not to think that we think it was."
"I suggest you be as friendly to Max as you can, and to all your other guests as well, because there might have been an accomplice; and pretend to believe Max's story, and blame Werner for everything."
"You mean not spook anyone until you have enough proof to make an arrest?"
"Well ... something of the sort."
"How much would he get if found guilty?"
"A life sentence for sure, which usually means twenty years in jail unless exchanged for someone before then, assuming, of course, that he is lucky enough to get a legal trial."
"The alternative being shot while resisting arrest or trying to escape?"
"No, that's too transparent and makes for a lot of noise and counter propaganda. Often it's most scary for the other side if someone just disappears without trace. Then they don't know whether he's alive or dead, and how much he had told, and, if he's alive, whether he's not working for us now, and if he's dead what sort of death it might have been."
"Yes, I see what you mean. By the way, who makes this sort of decisions around here - you?"
"Good God, no. I am only a major; I might be justified in making such a decision under exceptional circumstances only, for example in an emergency when there was no one of a higher rank nearby to consult; but down here, as things are, no, it's much above my head."
"Look," I said, "if something suspicious does crop up, would it take you long to have a few people posted around, say, the port and airport in Eilat, the central bus station, car rental agencies, and so on?"
Yankele looked at me with something like contempt slightly laced with pity, and then, for the first time since the accident, he smiled - a cold little smile - and said:
"Cobi, those people have been there since the morning your guests arrived."
* * *
That night, Helga slept in my cabin, returning to her empty one at dawn, shortly before I got up to wake our guests for the desert trip.
©1997 Zygmunt Frankel - All Rights Reserved.
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